Time for the Holidays: Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane (re-release)

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/christmas-kitsch-by-amy-lane-10019-b

Blurb: Sometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.

Review: Rusty is a “nice boy”. Tries hard, plays football, dates girls… but he’s not the “quickest”. He can eventually figure things out – given enough time- but he takes awhile to get there.
Good manners and a fascination for the new kid – chocolate to Rusty’s vanilla – prompts Rusty to befriend snarky, openly gay, Hispanic and funny Oliver. Oliver can hold his own with Rusty’s “friends” but it’s Rusty who becomes Oliver’s best friend in the last year of high school.
When it comes time for Rusty to go to Berkley, where he just knows he’s going to fail, Oliver does all he can to assure him that he’ll be there for him and that he knows Rusty won’t get lost in the shuffle. And… he kisses Rusty – telling him to just “think about it”.
Rusty is left at Berkley- lost, scared, trapped with a crazy but warm-hearted-hyper-sexual-roommate (Rex), and the memory of Oliver’s kiss to make him question…everything.
When it becomes apparent that Rusty is in fact not ready for Berkley – though he tries damn hard – he is ready for Oliver and knows that Oliver is more than just his best friend. Rusty goes home for Thanksgiving and is greeted by Oliver and kisses. His family witnesses this and kicks Rusty out of the house.
Luckily, Oliver’s family is there to help Rusty pick up the pieces and get him set up. What follows, is Rusty’s jump into the deep end of adulthood and his navigation of his first real relationship that also happens to be his first gay relationship.
Oliver’s impatience and love both help and hinder him in this process, but the underlying support he and his dad offer Rusty give him the strength to grow into the man he needs to become.
**
After Gambling Men, this is my favorite Amy Lane book. It is sweet, funny, tender, lightly sexy and really wonderful.
Rusty’s character is so open and honest as is Oliver. I love that the two have constant communication about their feelings, but even so, still manage to run into trouble because relationships are hard! Oliver just can’t understand Rusty’s reluctance to have him move in and Rusty just can’t be pressured in to giving Oliver anything but a wonderful home.
Oliver is just smart and snarky enough to ease the saccharine sweetness of Rusty’s goodness and make them a real, fun, and sexy couple.
I loved the interactions with the secondary characters. The role model of Oliver’s dad. The hilarity of the cousins. The hero-worship of Rusty’s sister. And the eventual grace of Rusty’s parents.
I read this book when I need a warm hug on a rainy afternoon and it always makes me feel better.
I can’t recommend it enough.


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Review
There is a special place in my heart for Amy Lane and her books. It was through Amy’s Little Goddess series, I followed her carefully laid out book crumbs which led me to the world of MM romance. She was also the first ‘real live author’ I wrote to after reading her work and I was so excited when she wrote back.

Knowing how Amy writes, I was expecting to shed a few tears over this book, and I wasn’t wrong.
Rusty is an absolute sweetheart. With his upbringing, he could have been a really arrogant bully, but he isn’t. He knows he isn’t that smart, but he still tries his hardest. He doesn’t want to go to college as he knows it will be too hard for him, but he goes anyway to please his parents.
His one rebellion is to fall in love with Oliver Campbell. And he gets kicked out of home for it.

I adored Rusty right from the beginning. Reading the book from his point of view, he may not quite have rose tinted glasses, but there is an innocence to the way he sees the world that can’t help but charm the reader. Oliver may be the smaller of the two boys, but he is smarter and does everything he can to fiercely protect Rusty.

This book is what Amy Lane does best. Great characters and a story that will rip out your heart and stomp on it before carefully putting it back inside you to beat another day.

4.5 stars out of 5


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Time for the Holidays: Dreamspinner Advent Calendar Story A Holiday Tradition by Chrissy Munder

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/2018-advent-calendar-daily-delivery-package-warmest-wishes-10067-b

 

Blurb

 

3 of stars out of 5

 

Paul Carpenter has his life all planned out. Or at least his father does. The right school, the right degree, the right job. Paul is on track, until a bus accident has him sitting out a coveted internship, babysitting, or being babysat, by a grandfather he barely remembers during his holiday stay in a Florida RV park. His father’s reasoning? How much temptation can Paul find around a bunch of senior citizens playing bingo? There’ll be nothing to distract him from his studies.
It’s hard to muster his holiday spirit when Paul is used to snow and cold, not sun, surf, and plastic flamingos in Santa hats. But then Paul meets Kevin Lombardo, who offers to show him some new holiday traditions. Suddenly Paul’s fast track hits a curve.”

Review

A sweet story about priorities in life and finding what makes you happy.
Paul’s father is set up as the bogeyman. He is a single father who is determined Paul will have a career irrespective of what Paul actually wants. Grandpa is the fun one, to him life is for living to the full. Then we meet Kevin who cares about the people who live on the and his attitude towards life gives Paul a lot to think about not to mention his growing attraction to Kevin. The only niggle I’ve got is that it ends quite abruptly. There is a jump of a year at the end and it felt like a lot had been skipped over leaving me dissatisfied. I think this story is one that could be expanded in the future.

 

3 of stars out of 5

Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Release Day Review:The Kinsey Scale (Campus Connections #1)by CJane Elliott

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/the-kinsey-scale-by-cjane-elliott-9963-b

Blurb

Life is good for Eric Brown. He’s a senior theater major, an RA for a freshman dorm, and has a great circle of friends. Single since sophomore year, Eric isn’t looking for love. But then Will Butler—fellow senior, co-RA, and the cutest guy Eric’s ever seen—walks into his dorm. Will has a girlfriend he sees off campus—a minor disappointment that becomes a major problem when a housing shortage causes Will and Eric to become roommates, and Eric is forced to witness Will’s hotness day in and day out. For protection, Eric asks Jerry, his ex-boyfriend, to pretend they’re still together. Jerry warns him it’s a stupid idea, but he reluctantly agrees.

Too bad it won’t save Eric from losing his heart.

Will Butler has never believed in himself. His dysfunctional family saw to that. Although Will has loved music since childhood, he’s never seriously considered pursuing it, and the person he’s dating doesn’t encourage him. Then he and Eric Brown become roommates, and everything changes. Eric believes in Will and his talent. He’s also gorgeous and playful and fast becoming Will’s best friend. And that’s not good, because Will is hiding some big things, not only from Eric, but from himself.

Review
I really liked this! I thought the characters were great and though I sometimes felt like they were missing the boat by just not TALKING I could kinda understand it given their respective ages.

I liked the smexy times (though I wish there were more) and really felt the HEA was worth the time invested. Highly enjoyable!

4 of 5 stars


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Review
This book took me a long time to read. Not because it was particularly difficult or taxing, but just that it didn’t engage me at all. At 65% through, I was still waiting for something to happen. For a book about a drama student there really was no… well, drama.
Everything is written from Eric’s point of view, but it felt like we never really get to know him as we bounced through the academic term. And Will similarly so.
Will had a potential home life back story that could be quite interesting, but nothing was made of it. His music, another strong potential story never flourished.
The best character of the bunch was Jerry, the pretend boyfriend as we got to see some animation from him, the rest just seemed insipid.
Sadly, this book did not live up to the blurb.

2.5 stars out of 5


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

 

 

Recent (re) Release: Not Just Friends by Jay Northcote

Goodreads link

Blurb

Leaving home for university has it’s struggles: meeting new people, classes, taking care of yourself and dealing with roommates how might not have the same views as you about dishes (that is, actually cleaning them) just to name a few. But what Lewis really isn’t prepared for the powerful crush he develops on his gay roommate Max. Because Lewis had always thought he was straight.

Lewis cannot keep his jealousy over Max’s new relationship hidden and forces him to confront his newfound sexuality. When Max’s relationship falls apart painfully, Lewis is there for him as a friend, one thing leads to another and even though Lewis is ready to take the next step, Max prefers them to stay as friends only.

Lewis tries to move on, keeping their friendship despite his feeling for Max. When the tables turn and Lewis is the one who needs Max’s support he learns maybe there is a future for them after all, if only he can risk his heart a second time.

Review

This is a re-release with no new content, and I enjoyed reading it the second time as much as the first one, which was on audio a while back. Jay’s stories always have that touch of realness to them, especially in the collage age stories, like his Housemates series for example. Relationships are not usually perfect from the start, sexuality isn’t either, and he manages to capture the small bumps in the roads and the physical exploration of sexuality so well. He also creates a true sense of group of friends, with all he small day to day issues of living together, collage lifestyle and all the side characters really shine in his books, here included.

This is a pretty typical coming out story, when Lewis suddenly comes face to face with an out and proud man, Max, he finds he is instantly attracted to, in close quarters no less. What follows are the very real struggles of a confused young man trying to figure out his sexuality, when he assumed he was straight and had a long term girlfriend before. All this while he is navigating collage life, new friends and awkward social situations, his roommate’s baking and attempts at matchmaking.

Max has no place for a relationship in his life, and after their tumble between the sheets he prefers to stay friends, but the friendship they share is so strong they cannot ignore their feelings anymore, and they both need the other for support. I like how they don’t have a clear path, Lewis figures out his sexuality it’s not the only thing in his way to a relationship with Max and they keep hitting walls and having to find ways to overcome them. They form a true friendship and bond that is so much stronger than having them fall into bed, and love, and face the difficulty of Lewis coming out like other romances of this troupe tend to do. This is a great romance that shows the not so perfect sides of romance and how, despite many odds against them, when two people are meant to be they can find a way to make it work if they are willing to take a risk.

Number of stars out of 5
3.5


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Audiobook Month: Finley by Ella Frank, narrated by J.F Harding

Audible Link

https://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/The-Long-Way-Home-Audiobook/B01MQGGZ71?ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_4&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=4GVDMJXBB991JR8MT96Z&

Blurb:

It’s time to come home, Finn.

It’s been seven years since Daniel Finley left his hometown in Florida for the hustle and bustle of Chicago’s city life.
Since then, he’s worked hard for his position at the prestigious law firm Leighton & Associates, even when it’s caused distance and isolation from his family and friends. But that’s all about to change.

On his 30th birthday, he receives the one thing he never dared hope for. Something that was promised to him years earlier – a note. One simple sentence from the man he’s never been able to forget.

Six words will forever change the course of their lives.

Brantley Hayes has it all. Or so he thinks. When he first made the decision to take a job down in Florida, his family thought he was crazy. But, after years of living in the quiet beach town, he finally feels a sense of community. He’s surrounded himself with friends who are like family, has a job he loves, and owns a spectacular beachfront property that is his sanctuary.
Yet he still feels unfulfilled, as if a piece of the puzzle is missing, and he knows exactly which piece it is. On an impulse, he follows through with a promise he made years earlier. A promise to call home the one he sent away.

Nothing is as simple as it seems.

After years of separation, the former lovers are reunited, but Brantley wasn’t expecting to encounter the high walls now guarding Daniel’s heart.
Daniel may not be the same person he was when he left, but he knows that the first step to healing is the note in his hand..

Review:

I loved the story and its link to the Temptation series (one of my all-time faves to listen to).
Daniel Finley (Fin) is the cocky lawyer who helps Tate get a big settlement after an accident case. But before he became a cocky lawyer, he was a cocky law student who had his eye of one of his professors – Brantley Hayes. The story goes back and forth between the past and present, starting with Daniel coming home to face the man who sent him away. It was fun to see how the relationship between Fin and Brantley developed and grew over time while he (Fin) was still a student.
Note: The teacher/student aspect is quite well done – I didn’t once think that the relationship may not have been appropriate.
When Brantley decides that Fin would be better off finishing his degree at a better university, Fin doesn’t take the advice well, but leaves anyway. Fast forward to the present – he’s grown up and is prepared to ‘love’ Brantley and leave him. Happily their past chemistry makes it hard for them to walk away from each other. Like I said, I loved the story.

5 of 5 stars

Audio 
Charlie David narrates and while he is quite good, I wasn’t overly fond of his performance here. One of my issues is that there was very little distinction between the 2 MCs. There was slightly more of a difference with the 2 secondary characters- Derek and Jordan. Overall, it wasn’t a bad performance, just not one of my favourites, (it didn’t stop me from buying the audio for Derek and Jordan’s story).

Narration 3.75 of 5 stars

Overall 4.5 of 5 stars

Copy Purchased for Review

 

Audiobook Month: Yanni’s Story (Spencer Cohen #4) by N.R. Walker Narrated by Joel Leslie

Audible Link

https://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Yannis-Story-Audiobook/B07D38WN8F?ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=17VCKKJQV633DMVDG4G5&

Blurb

When Yanni Tomaras is kicked out of his family home, his parents’ final words are religious insults and an order to never return. Homeless and desperate, he’s lured in by Lance—charming on the outside, an evil predator underneath—who abuses Yanni until he finds the courage to leave.

Yanni should feel free. But by the time Spencer Cohen finds him, he’s resigned to being handed back to Lance and once again being caged by fear.

Starting school and a part-time job, Yanni begins to reclaim his life. But a love for silent films leads him to Peter Hannikov, a man with a kind heart but who’s twice his age. An unlikely friendship between them blooms into so much more. Neither man knows what he wants, at first. Finding out exactly what he needs is Yanni’s story.

“I’d spent years as a bird, caged with my wings clipped, tormented and beaten.

I thought I’d escaped when I’d left my abuser, but in hindsight, I could see that I was still caged, this time by fear and self-doubt.

Spencer and Andrew, and Andrew’s parents, opened the door to the cage that confined me.

But it was Peter who taught me how to fly.”

Trigger Warning: Descriptions of violence, suicide, and sexual assault. Reader discretion advised.

Review by Mary
(Book reviewed here previously)
Yianni is a character from book 2 and the timeline runs along books 2 and three. In my opinion it can work as a standalone. As would be expected it is written from Yanni’s point of view. There is little to no angst and I like like that it is a positive story about Yanni pulling his life back together. When they first meet neither Yanni or Peter are in the right place for a romantic relationship but a close friendship develops from shared interests. Liked the pace of the story. I appreciate the slow burn of the impending deeper relationship given what Yanni escaped from and Peter only recently coming out of a relationship.
There is daddy kink in the story rather than just a May/December relationship which sort of surprised me. It comes from the security and nurturing angle of the kink rather than sexual games or the desire to dominate. That’s not to say they aren’t equal in the relationship because they are. It’s definitely not about control. I think this sums up Yanni’s feelings for Peter He was a pillar of warmth and strength and everything my soul craved. Such beautiful writing, so evocative.
The support characters really stand out and each one has a role, whether intentional or not in Yanni’s recovery. Andrew’s parents enfold Yanni into a family he so desperately needs and his house mates provide the understanding friendship. Whilst his work colleagues help to re-enforce his confidence.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this story when I started but as I went on I found it to be a beautiful story of healing, not just for Yanni but also for Peter, and quite thought provoking.

4.5 of 5 stars

Review by Beth

This is a sweet story about a man, Yanni, who removes himself from an abusive relationship and the struggles he goes through to regain his feelings of self worth. All of the supporting characters are kind and generous, supportive of Yanni’s recovery.

The story shows us how much an abusive relationship can really warp your self worth. Depending how long the situation lasted, the more it seems the victim feels he isn’t worth redemption. The author takes us through many of the steps to recovery letting us root for Yanni to recover each small step he takes.

Then we have Peter who is mildly into the daddy aspect of BDSM. An older man who likes younger men. He and Yanni discover they have a lot of the same interests. Peter doesn’t learn of the extent of abuse Yanni had gone through until about half way through the story, yet he is kind and gentle in general.

The sex is sweet when it finally happens. And all the Daddy/boy play is very, very subtle.

The story moved at a pace that was appropriate for the content. I read this in pretty much 1 sitting, wanting to see how the story progressed.

4 of 5 stars

Review by Morgan

I want to start by stating that I’m a big NR Walker fan, and I have LOVED pretty much everything she ever wrote. Mostly. But this wasn’t my favorite, unfortunately, it just hit me wrong, and I couldn’t get over the “daddy” kink. I think that’s pretty mild and only people really sensitive to the issue will notice – but that was my overshadowing impression.

I really loved the series and was happy to see Spencer again! But I wasn’t that involved in this story as I have been in the past.

The writing was good and I’m still a super fan!

3 of 5 stars

Audio
While this is not my favorite NR Walker story, I still loved this series in it’s entirety and was so thankful she chose Joel to narrate. He is able to give the vast myriad characters such depth and to perform all the deeply emotional scenes to perfection.

Highly recommended in this format!

5 of 5 stars
Overall 4 of 5 stars

 

Morgan - Signature-small
Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Audiobook Month: Watching and Wanting by Jay Northcote Narrated by Lewis Carter

Audible Link

https://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Watching-and-Wanting-Audiobook/B07CNGM8N9?ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=50BDYMC2WCRBWDJKGB8Z&

Blurb

Watching Jude’s cam show stirs desires Shawn’s always denied… Shawn is adrift. Recently graduated, he’s stuck in a dead-end job that barely pays the bills. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends have moved on, and he’s still in Plymouth – going nowhere.
Jude is a student living in the same shared house. Out and proud, he’s everything Shawn’s been running from since he hit puberty. When Shawn discovers Jude works as a cam boy, he can’t resist the urge to watch one of his shows. It makes Shawn want things that scare him, yet his fascination forces him to confront his attraction. Keen to explore his bicurious side, Shawn suggests they do a show together. Jude agrees, and things get complicated – and kinky – fast. But Jude isn’t looking to get involved with someone so deep in the closet. If Shawn’s going to get what he wants, he needs to find the courage to stop hiding from himself and be honest about who he is.

Review

This story finds us in sympathy with Shawn, he is in a dead end job and just dumped by his girlfriend. Everything is rubbing him wrong and that leads to him lashing out to his flat mates. Barging into Julian’s room and interrupting his cam show leaves Shawn not quite shocked enough to notice the website playing. He goes back to his room , pulls up the sight and watches. This leaves him questioning his sexuality and approaching Julian.

Julian is comfortable in his skin, and looks at what he does online as just a job, a way to help him pay for school and his room at the house. He is also out and proud and definitely doesn’t want to go back into the closet, even for someone he feels a strong connection to.

I like how some of the scenes they play out are talked out before hand, but I also like how even with planning they expand into something neither of the guys expected. I also liked how Shawn finally decided what he wanted and acted on it. Overall this is a great story of exploration and discovery

Narration
This is the first time listening to Lewis Clark and his timing and inflection were good. I thought the voices tended to get a little to effeminate, but that is my only complaint. Voices were distinguishable and applied where needed with narration and thoughts had the distinction needed.

Overall I would be willing to listen to something else he narrates.

4 of 5 stars


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

 

 

 

 

Retro Read: Blindsided By You: A Gay For You Sports Romance by Cameron Riley

Good Reads Link
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31549350-blindsided-by-you?from_search=true

Blurb

 Could their forbidden romance be everything they never knew they wanted?
Seth is a college senior and star quarterback. Unlike his best friend Marc, he doesn’t love being a football hero — but since his coach is also his father, he feels trapped. When he meets Marc’s younger brother Aaron, Seth is surprised at the instant attraction between them, since he’s always considered himself straight.

Aaron knows he’s gay — his favorite pastime is reading M/M romance novels. It’s almost as if Seth stepped right from the pages of one of Aaron’s books and straight into his fantasies. Aaron is more than ready to make them real … if Seth will make a move.
But Marc doesn’t want his brother’s sexuality making headlines — for Aaron’s protection, yes, but also for the sake of Marc’s future career. Can Seth and Aaron keep their relationship a secret? If they’re discovered, can they survive the fallout?

Review:
The premise of the story had promise, but the execution and editing errors detracted from my enjoyment.
The beginning started off well: Seth plays college football and Aaron is the non- sporty type; complete opposites. Seth realises that he is not entirely happy with his life – he wants more. It dawns on him that he may not be entirely straight and admits to himself that he doesn’t really like football.
The MCs meet at a frat party and interest is kindled. However, from here, the storyline does not flow well. For some reason, Seth takes on the responsibility of paying for damages from the frat party, but what about his frat brothers? It was never clear that Seth orchestrated the party by himself. Another thing that didn’t work – Set takes a job at a gay club (to pay for the damages) and on his first day is able to find time to dance with Aaron? (he said it was his break, but it was last call for closing).
There were other inexplicable instances, but the last straw was that at the end of the book, despite Seth not wanting to play football, he goes in for the NFL draft and is happy to be selected!
The plot and editing issues made this a disappointing read.

2.5 stars out of 5

Copy purchased for review

 

Audiobook: The Quarterback by Mackenzie Blair Narrated by Greg Boudreax

audiobookreview

Audible

https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/The-Quarterback-Audiobook/B07C7MYH7X

Blurb

Matt Lancaster is the star quarterback at Bodine College, a small Southern Division II school with an ultra-conservative Dean of Athletics. Matt is also very much in the closet, and he thinks he’s kept his secret well hidden. Until his best friends take him to a happy endings massage parlor and request a male masseuse for him.

In walks Trevor Kim, a gorgeous, pierced, tattooed fellow Bodine student who does massages—without happy endings—to pay for school after his family kicked him out for being gay. Trevor takes one look at Matt and breaks all his own rules about mixing business with pleasure.

Matt needs to keep his scholarship, win the National Championship, and survive his asshole father. Instead, he falls in love. Trevor needs to accept that the football god is meant to end up with him rather than a perky cheerleader. It’s time for a happy ever after for both of them.

Review

(Book reviewed here previously)

Well, ‘tis the season for sports minded romance! This is one of three or four GFY or supposedly straight guys finding their gay side that I’ve read in the last month. Honestly, they’ve all been really good, so I haven’t minded one bit!

What I liked about this was that Trevor speaks up for himself and isn’t willing to be shut up in a closet. Trevor is also pretty unique and funny and as a character, was a lot of fun.

Matt is pretty typical, as far as jock characters go – though I found his willingness to try things at the happy ending massage place pretty funny.

There is quite a bit of exploratory/virgin sex , some pretty unrealistic team mates and some super awesome family members. The dialog was witty and fun and there wasn’t a lot of football to get in the way of the romance – which I appreciated!

I really enjoyed this and recommend it to fans of GFY/OFY jock/nerd romances.

4.5 of 5 stars

 

Audio

This might be the first time I’ve ever said this… but while Greg did his usual great job, I’m not sure he added as much to this as I was expecting.  I didn’t see a big difference between Matt and Trevor and I figured there’d be at least something what with all the potential for accents based on location, heritage, etc.

I thought he did great with some of the other guys on the team but I was looking for something a bit different for the two MCs.

It was still wonderful and amazing and a great way to enjoy this story.

Highly recommended!

4.5 of 5 stars

4.5-stars-small
Morgan - Signature-small

Copy Purchased for Review